Gary D. Stephens, Jr.
The Art Institute of Indianapolis
A little humility goes a long way. Gary D Stephens, Jr. , Fashion Instructor , The Art Institute of Indianapolis
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
When I was in kindergarten, I entered our school-wide art show. The judges chose 10 pieces of my work as worthy of being in the show. In high school, I got into costume design for theatre.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
In Textile Fundamentals, I talk about my vintage clothing businesses in relation to fiber identification as it applies to cleaning and repairing garments for resale. My experience with vintage clothing comes into play quite a bit in Fashion History and Concept Development.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
The stylist project in Sales and Event Promotion has students design sales promotion materials for an actual retailer. They execute a photo shoot for a look book, procuring merchandise, location, models, photographer, hair and make-up, etc. They also complete a merchandise mix, plan-a-gram, and supporting documentation. They’re expected to create finished products so professionally executed that they could be distributed by the company.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
There’s a great deal of collaboration among the fashion programs. From the stylist project that the Fashion Marketing & Management students work on to the annual fashion show, teamwork is a big part of what we promote here. After all, it’s the way our graduates will work in the real world of fashion.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Never give up. You have to make mistakes—and learn from those mistakes—to create great design.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Don’t have a sense of entitlement.